At least you have some vision...

Lucky banner. Find this cute tutorial at: http://babsmadeit.blogspot.com/2011/02/lucky-banner.html
 When I meet someone and they want to talk about my blindness, this is the conversation that often takes place.
Stranger: So you are blind?
Me: Yes, I am.
Stranger: But it seems like you can see.
Me: Well, yes, I can see a little bit but not much.
Stranger: Oh, thank goodness, at least you have some vision.

This conversation has happened way more times that I can count. It’s a kind gesture, suggesting I’m lucky that I have some vision, but the reality is there is a lot of common misconceptions and un-intentional ignorance behind this statement. This {common} idea that the more vision you have the better off you are, is an incorrect assumption.

The fact is that the amount of vision one has does not relate directly to success and/or quality of life. It’s interesting to see a rush of relief come over a person’s face when I tell them I have some vision.  There is something comforting to people in knowing I can see something…

The reality is success and happiness depends very little on the amount of vision a blind or visually impaired a person has, instead it is often due to a having good skills of blindness, positive attitudes about one’s own capabilities, positive role models and a sense of self-worth/self-confidence.

For example, I have several friends who are totally blind, no vision at all, who are lawyers, teachers, directors, full-time moms, government leaders and on and on. I don’t think they found this success because of their blindness at all, rather their own personal goal setting abilities and capacity to adapt to the world around them, instead of relying on the world around them to adapt to them. They have often learned braille at a young age and have been encouraged to be independent early on. 

Just like any other subgroup of a population, many factors contribute to the success of a person and the amount of sight they have is at the bottom of that list.

I often meet parents of blind children and they will tell me, with understandable sadness and heartbreak on their faces, that their child is totally blind. You can imagine the shock when I say, “Oh, that’s awesome, you’re lucky.” WHAT????

The reality is, a child who is totally blind will learn braille and how to use a cane because the option of using un-reliable and misleading vision to read and travel is not an option. These children get the services they need and most likely will not have to fight for literacy. The thing is, one is not better than the other, it’s simply a characteristic like blonde hair or hazel eye, it determines very little about one’s character or drive.

This idea that those of us with partial sight are better off is not always reality. If I lost all my vision today, and suddenly could see nothing, would I have an adjustment period, yes! Would it change my character? Would I suddenly have different ambitions and dreams? No.

The amount of sight one has, has little effect on their life if they have the right attitude about blindness.

Phote from Project Change event in Austin, Texas (October 2013)


Marla Palmer said...

Preach it sister!

Zainub C. said...

Something else that's really important to think about too is the identity confusion that blind people with residual vision face. By society's standards, they're not blind, and yet by medical standards and legal definition, they are.

Sometimes the hardest thing is picking a label that fits--blind? visually impaired? partially sighted?--and learning to understand that the vision one has WON'T always be there.

I was lucky in that I had cane travel and some braille literacy as a child and an adolescent, but I'll wholeheartedly admit that I wouldn't have fought for them the way my sister fought for me to have them. Mostly because I didn't identify as blind, simply because I had a fair amount of residual vision.

Now? If you come into my kitchen, you'll find tactile dots on my microwave so that I can easily heat things up without having to read the (still legible) display, and my stove is also marked up in tactile dots so that I can use it more easily. When I cook on my gas range, I listen REALLY hard for the telltale whoosh to know the burner's lit, just the way Marilyn taught me. And I do most of my school reading using Kurzweil, because I can follow along with the text if I feel like it, or just listen if I'm tired.

For me, once I started identifying as a blind person in spite of what society said, it was easier to start learning the skills I needed to be successful.

That self-identification is an important first step, and one worth addressing, I think.

SallyT said...

Hey, I know those folks. NFBT, I miss you.

SallyT said...

Hey, I know those folks. NFBT, I miss you.